I went into this book knowing next to nothing about its contents. I do this on purpose. I like to be surprised. I avoid dust jacket descriptions, movies/shows about the book, or even summaries online. That approach paid huge dividends in reading The Handmaid’s Tale. I didn’t know what I was getting into.
It’s a dystopian novel. I didn’t know that either. Margaret Atwood does an amazing job of revealing this dystopian nightmare little by little. You get suckered into viewing life through this lens much like the characters in the book do, shifting from freedom to oppression during their lifetimes.
There are a ton of different themes and lenses in which to read this book. Colors play a vivid role. The decadence of the elite is contrasted against the forced simplicity of the non-elite. Sexual licentiousness vs rape. Difficult topics. It had echoes of Brave New World and also reminded me of the more recent Hunger Games series.
I was completely shocked by the “Historical Notes” section at the end of the book. It was a fantastic surprise and a great way to end the book. I know this is one I’ll be thinking about for a while. Dystopian novels have a tendency to stick. Perhaps it’s because it points out how quickly things can go south. It doesn’t take much. As Russ Roberts said mid-2020, the veil of civilization is thin.